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Claire Danes Covers Allure: Talks MSCL, 90s Style and Body Shaming

18 Nov

Whenever Claire Danes talks about My So-Called Life it lights up a very specific nostalgia spot and so this comment in the December issue of Allure feels like it could be directly referencing me “they loved the show, that it was really meaningful to them when they were going through a bad, chaotic, murky time of being a teenager” Yep all of that is very accurate and the MSCL’s pop culture position stretches far beyond its 18-episode run (it got to the final in Vulture’s recent High School TV Showdown) and Danes discusses how this has impacted her “I feel a real loyalty to my generation. I think your identity is sort of set in your teenage years. And my cultural identity was set at that same time.”

What struck me about the shot used here of Claire Danes and Winona Ryder from 1996 is how I had forgotten that I didn’t just model my hairstyle on Michelle Williams, but Danes was a HUGE influence too – I was too scared to go for the full Winona pixie cut – and this barrette/zigzag side parting became one of my signature looks. In fact I’m actually wearing a barrette right now while typing this as like Danes my hair constantly falls in front of my face and I really need a haircut. This whole slideshow is a delight going from on and off screen style from MSCL to now including some rather dreamy takes about her relationship with Hugh Dancy.

Claire Danes Allure coverThe cover image goes full 90s with a darker lip color (Winona would approve) and this silk Lanvin dress is a stunning shade of blue; even if I would love to see a photo shoot in Danes endorsed overalls. Or maybe a little bit of plaid. But as far as glam editorials go this one is good, if not a little run of the mill. And while one of the topics covered is the much discussed cry face phenomenon, my favorite shot is on the other end of the facial expression scale.

Claire Danes AllureI love a good cry face and one day I will set up the Cry Face Olympics of which there will many contenders from television and film. Danes will be a big hitter and even though I’m sure it is irritating to discuss this part of her acting style in every interview, she has softened her position from annoyance to yeah this is just what I do “I’m very vain about my performance. I want to give as honest a performance as I can. But I’m not so worried about being regarded as beautiful when I’m playing a character.” What she says about body image is also pretty inspiring and how there are all these different factors at play. We can be more than one thing.

“It’s just so ingrained in us, the idea that we should take up the right amount of space, literally and figuratively. I’ve wrestled with this my whole life, as just a person in the world and as somebody who makes images. It’s OK to want to look and feel your best. It’s OK to work at being attractive, whatever that means to you. And it’s also OK to not expect to be defined by that. It’s OK to be powerful in every way: to be big, to take up space. To breathe and thrive.”

For more from the Claire Danes Allure interview including this video where she goes through many of her famous looks such as Angela’s red hair and those angel wings head here.

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The Most Angela Chase Dress at NYFW

11 Sep

The ’90s inspired fashion cycle continues and while the crop top explosion is something I’m enjoying just as much now as I did back then (and there continued to be a lot of stomach slivers on the Spring 2015 NYFW runway); the happiness I get from relating something back to My So-Called Life far outweighs my fear of showing my midriff. And you know Rayanne Graff could rock a bralette like no other, particularly when layered with multiple shirts and jackets.

Scrolling through endless shots and what leaps out? That’s right a dress from the Creatures of the Wind collection that is a combination of every Angela Chase plaid shirt/dress ever worn with a black plunging vest underneath.

Creatures Angela ChaseHere is some Angela in plaid examples just in case you don’t spot the connection:

MSCL the plaid dressThe ‘trying not to be obvious while looking at Jordan Catalano’ plaid.

MSCL A and R bedroomThe ‘squeezing a zit even though you know it’s a bad idea’ plaid.

MSCL 6 A, P, GThe ‘hanging with your parents and wearing over dungarees’ plaid.

MSCL ep13 Sharon and Angela bedThe ‘watching a sex manual VHS with your former BFF’ plaid.

MSCL ep 11 Angela JordanThe ‘talking to Jordan Catalano all cool and casual like’ plaid.

MSCL bathroom make upThe ‘what the hell is Rayanne wearing?’ plaid.

MSCL ep9 DangelaThe ‘my little sister doing a spot on impression of me’ plaid.

MSCL ep12 bathroomThe ‘off the shoulder what is my former BFF talking to my current BFF about?’ plaid.

where's angelaThe ‘can you spot me while I’m hiding out in a fort made of plaid’ plaid.

And finally…

Lake BellThe ‘Angela Chase tribute outfit as worn by Lake Bell in the excellent In a World…‘ plaid.

 

 

 

Happy 20th Birthday My So-Called Life: Why Angela Chase Means So Much

27 Aug

My So-Called Life premiered August 25 1994 when I was two weeks shy of turning 12. I didn’t see this show until 3 years later and this was probably for the best as I didn’t need Angela Chase until that miserable summer. Despite its short length of only 18 episodes I have managed to spill a whole lot of personal/analytical/style observations and while I touched on what I cover below, the level of angst and introspection was not worthy of this show.  To celebrate 20 years since the debut of MSCL I want to talk about why it meant so much to me when I first saw it. Please read the following in the style of an Angela Chase voiceover.

MSCL ep 2 AngelaBeing ignored for no particular reason is one of those awful teenage rite of passage that every girl in my class went through, it just so happened that mine occurred during the summer break. So I faced 6 weeks of not a whole lot going on. This was the summer of 1997, I was 14 years old and I have to admit that maybe I was to blame for some of this as I had recently changed friendship groups. At first there was mass acceptance and then like that I lost whatever factor had made them embrace me into their way cooler circle. My journal (which I no longer have, something I regret) entries at this time swayed between strained optimism where I pretended that everything was fine to more desperate pleas of insecurity.

Miserable real life friendship situation not withstanding something amazing did happen over this summer as I fell in love and felt completely understood by one person – enter Angela Chase and My So-Called Life. I didn’t see this show when it first aired in the UK the previous year; however it was part of the daytime TV schedule throughout this summer alongside Eerie, Indiana, The Secret World of Alex Mack and Sister, Sister. Those extreme feelings of teendom are hard to capture as everything means so much and nothing all at once; there’s the rush of discovery and then disillusionment. For me MSCL had all of the former and none of the latter.

I have another confession to make about this transitional period and that’s on the subject of best friends. The whole BFFs situation is full of so many fraught memories; will I ever have one? Is this person as those three capital letters scream going to be part of my life forever? Why do you have to label one person as ‘best?’ I actually still have some of these feelings today about this notion and the term “best friend” feels so loaded with preconceived ideas that it makes me dizzy. Clearly at this point I didn’t have a best friend, or really any friends (actually I had one very dear friend who went to another school, but during this summer she grew up all of a sudden and started drinking, smoking and dating and I was a year away from any of these things) and so fictional characters whether in books or on screen became the next best thing.

The ache you feel at 14 is hard to articulate, god knows I tried spilling my emotions in a way I thought you had to at this age. Journal writing really wasn’t my forte and it made me feel uncomfortable; half the time I was lying to myself both in my mind and on those journal pages. Step up Angela Chase and from her first introspective voiceover I knew I had found a heroine for a life; someone that understood who I was and what I was going through and it was a voice coming from my television.

Like Angela, at this point in my life I had never kissed a boy and it suddenly felt kind of ok that I hadn’t; I was no longer the biggest loser in the room. Everything about that period in your life is trying to do things so fast and worrying that you’ll be the last to experience all of these moments, as if being last is the worst thing in the world (hyperbole is the key tool to an adolescent mind). Suddenly there was this cool, pretty – but not in a typical popular girl Hollywood way, remember she does the best quiver cry face – and lost girl who was saying everything I was feeling. It’s also the first time I think I was honest in my journal as I overly emoted about how much I loved this show and this character. Jordan Catalano was an object of affection as he really does lean incredibly well, however it was Angela who had my heart.

Finding salvation in fiction lets us experience our own pain and fears through the gaze of someone else; as everything is heightened emotionally during adolescence the desire to be understood and find a connection can often take place in a world that has been created by another. It’s one reason why YA fiction thrives and can cause such strong visceral reactions. For some it is rooted in the supernatural, for me it was that girl in plaid with dyed red hair.

I also have to wonder how much this experience has affected the focus of my writing; The X-Files and E.R. were the first two shows that revealed just how much television can be, but My So-Called Life exposed something I had never felt before. So not only was my summer of misery saved by a TV show, my personal investment and interest in this format was probably enhanced by this experience.

More heartbreak followed when I found out that only 18 episodes of this show had been made and it was rather fitting that this intense love affair with this world and characters lasted for just one summer. Unlike most summer flings I managed to last the distance with this one and when I watched it again in the mid-2000s (and then for This Was TV) I found that my feelings were still strong and the connection is still very much alive.

Going back to school after the break was over wasn’t so terrible as it was someone else’s turn to get the silent treatment and soon we grew up beyond this petty and inexplicable tradition. The next summer was not one of abject loneliness and I had the kind of vacation that I previously thought existed only in fiction; one where you hang out, have fun and don’t feel bad about yourself. We had a time. Looking back I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t change a thing from the summer of ’97 as it really sucks to have such a low opinion of yourself. Instead I will say that I am incredibly grateful that Winnie Holzman created a show that made me feel like I wasn’t alone in huge mess of adolescent misery and that is the power of a well crafted story.

Festive Rewind: My So-Called Life “So-Called Angels”

10 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Today join me as I discuss the My So-Called Life episode “So Called Angels”

MSCL ep15 church

As with Halloween and Thanksgiving, the festive period gives teen dramas an opportunity to explore the wider themes of impending adulthood; Halloween can enhance the exploration of who the characters are and want to be through costume and as with Thanksgiving, Christmas opens up the idea of what a family is. Family can mean many things and the extension of friends as family is an important component.

My So-Called Life heads into “Very Special Episode” territory with “So-Called Angels” as Rickie is beaten up and kicked out of his house; the opening scene is Rickie bleeding into the snow and it’s a very bleak intro to a festive themed episode. This is another thing about the holidays and TV drama; bad things happen and the resolution tends to be a happy one after a series of trials and tribulations. MSCL deals with a wide range of issues in this outing including teen homelessness, religion, privilege, prejudice, holiday related depression and domestic abuse. It’s one of the cheesier episodes thanks to the presence of an actual angel (more on that below) and a well telegraphed message, but at the same time it’s a Christmas episode and so sentimentality is expected.

MSCL ep15 angela phone

Angela has new boots and these become a symbol of the things that people have and don’t have. This goes from sibling jealousy to conversations with dead people; for a show that is grounded in reality there are two episodes in which Angela talks to the dead (the other being Halloween). Singer Juliana Hatfield (cue raspy, sad sounding music which you can hear below) guest stars as a girl who died on the streets because of the cold, a girl who appears to both Angela and her mother to impart an important message. Angel Juliana Hatfield tells Angela that her good boots were stolen and now she can’t get warm. This conversation is all about showing the vast socioeconomic difference between Angela and this girl, Graham has already emphasized how warm Angela’s boots look. Angela leaves her boots for Angel Hatfield and they must be magical as Angel Hatfield manages to wear them even though she is dead. Yes I am only questioning the logic of this aspect.

MSCL ep15 guitar wingsJuliana Hatfield is a guardian angel of sorts for Rickie; she’s there to show Angela where Rickie has been sleeping so she can come to his aid. It’s a Wonderful Life is the quintessential guardian angel Christmas movie and as MSCL’s production company is called “Bedford Falls” it all makes sense. Angel Hatfield is also there to dish out some words of wisdom to Patty; Patty who is wary of Rickie because she doesn’t know him in the same way she knows someone like Brian Krakow. Angela and Patty get into a fight about the Rickie situation and Angela turns the tables exclaiming that “This girl [Juliana Hatfield], she could be me.”

Patty can’t reconcile this comparison until she meets our guitar winged visitor. This is where the episode takes a sharp turn cheese avenue, but it’s also the point where the misty eyes kick in. I’ve seen this episode countless times (it is part of my present wrapping watching playlist) and the tears hit at the same point every single time. I am a sucker for heavy handed comparisons that layer it on with emotions. That’s right Angela could be Angel Hatfield. If that wasn’t enough the combination of the choir and Patty embracing Rickie in the church sends me over the edge.

MSCL ep15 helpline

The B story of the episode is on the lighter side, even if Brian Krakow is on the verge of tears thanks to his feelings of perpetual loneliness. It’s ok because Sharon has enlisted Rayanne to help with the help line (in the all important bathroom location – those who read the This Was TV MSCL posts will know how much I love this) and she distracts Brian by turning his plea for help call into something to distract him. Denying us the future chronicles of Sharon and Rayanne is one of the many reasons why I’m still bummed out that this is a one season show. This plot is an extension of the friends as family notion and the only person alone in the montage is Jordan Catalano, who I assume is lighting a candle for Rickie.

While the Rickie situation has been solved in the short term and he won’t be sleeping in an abandoned building for Christmas there is still a long way to go. The episode ends of a hopeful note and yet it doesn’t suggest that it’s all tied up in a bow; this is why My So-Called Life can indulge in fantastical elements because the next episode will face up to the reality of the situation.

Behind the Scenes Photos from My So-Called Life

30 Oct

Wilson Cruz who played Rickie Vasquez on TV Ate My Wardrobe favorite My So-Called Life has posted some behind the scenes photos from the set of this show. Sadly Cruz had his own photos from MSCL stolen from a storage unit years ago but on-screen BFF AJ Langer (Rayanne Graff) sent him some from her collection which he shared on Twitter.

Behind the scenes

This one celebrates getting picked up a year after they shot the pilot and it’s pretty much giving me all of the feelings. That plaid flannel dress is one of the quintessential items in Angela Chase’s wardrobe and I’d like to submit this cast as a suggestion for the next Entertainment Weekly reunion issue. Date stamping and tagging a Polaroid with a pen; Instagram before Instagram.

DancingAnother photo shows an AJ Langer and Wilson Cruz dance party in matching backwards baseball caps. Oh the ’90s. The shirt wrapped around the waist is making a very surprising come back this year, a trend that is less terrible than half of the ’90s throwbacks. I’m looking at you crop tops. The safe bet is to emulate Angela Chase, going all in on the fashion from this period is all about Rayanne.

For more including a shot of a very sleepy cast and Wilson Cruz with show creator Winnie Holzman head here and here. It’s a straight up nostalgia fest at TV Ate My Wardrobe this week.

Update!

It’s throwback Thursday and Wilson Cruz is sharing more photos on Twitter from the MSCL set including this group shot featuring Jordan Catalano himself Jared Leto, Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall), Devon Odessa (Sharon) and Jeff Perry (now Cyrus Beene on Scandal).

My So-Called Life cast shot

Halloween Costume Tips From My So-Called Life

24 Oct

Halloween is approaching which means Halloween episodes of TV shows! As the ’90s is the enjoying its moment in the nostalgia spotlight I’m going to turn to My So Called Life for some costume tips as their solitary spooky outing showcased a variety of costumes types and even led to a ghostly encounter that every teen show needs.

1) Go as someone you know

MSCL ep9 DangelaAngela Chase’s much ignored sister Danielle spends most of this show begging for attention and as the younger sibling she feels like she is always in Angela’s shadow. It makes total sense that rather than going as Madonna as her parents suggested she sticks closer to home and dresses up as her sister. It’s an easy look to achieve all you need is some red hair dye, an oversized plaid shirt, some DM like boots and a propensity to make grand statements while hugging yourself. Try not to smile when you are anywhere near your parents.

Rickie as BrianRickie also takes this approach but is a bit broader in his scope as he borrows Brian Krakow’s clothes to go as everyone else. I think Rickie should stick to his many awesome vests.

2) Pick an animal 

MSCL ep9 SharonSharon is a cat and she’s annoyed that more people aren’t dressed up. Of course if you’re going to go as an animal make sure everyone knows what animal you are as a wiseass like Rayanne will suggest that you look like a rat and when a costume is unclear it can get rather irritating correcting everyone.

3) Stick to the classics

MSCL ep9 RayanneRayanne opts for the more traditional approach and is dressed as a vampire. The one thing that is absent from the My So-Called Life episode is anyone doing the super sexy version of something and I don’t know if that’s because this wasn’t such a huge thing in the mid-90s. Rayanne’s costume is the one that edges towards with red lace and fishnets, but vampires are all about the sexy times (ok maybe not Nosferatu).

4) Go vintage

Vintage AngelaFind yourself a mohair cardigan, some retro glasses, a mid-length patterned skirt and an old library book and you instantly have the look of a 1960s high school student. Bonus points if you can find a tragic urban legend that mirrors your own personal drama.

5) Find a spooky setting 

MSCL ep9 groupGhost stories are just as integral to Halloween as costumes and candy and while TV Ate My Wardrobe doesn’t suggest a plan like the MSCL school séance, be prepared to tell your best scary stories. Don’t be like Brian Krakow and forget your costume.

6) Stay safe and watch out for any sneaky skeletons 

MSCL ep9 corridorYou never know where they might be hanging around.

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